“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “
We love the honesty in your photographs, how do you go about to capture it?
I think it all comes from the belief that real is better than pretty.
I have so many portraits of my kids, and I know that in a world of smartphones every parent does as well. And as much I as love beautiful portraits they almost never make me stop and think. Or reminisce about anything. But I do that a lot with honest documentary images. Candid family photographs bring memories and joy and yeah..sometimes a little sadness as well.
I try to make sure that I’m not affecting the scene. It’s easier with my kids because “ahh…Dad is always with a camera” Nobody cares anymore. My kids just go on with their lives. Is a little tricker when it comes to my clients. Kids stop doing what they are doing when they see me taking pictures, or they sometimes start to do a show for me. Eather way this is not what I want. It’s great to have images of two brothers messing around but not if they do that just for me. So I just don’t photograph them when they do that. I go somewhere else. They very quickly realize that I don’t take pictures when they show off or look at the camera. Plus my session is usually at least couple hours long. So after the first one, no one is usually noticing the camera anymore.
I approach every scene like a puzzle. I know there is a picture somewhere there and I just need to find it. Plus I want to make sure that the image is not only about how the scene looks like. I don’t want to photograph my son running at the beach at sunset. I want to photograph how it feels to be a little boy running on the beach at sunset. I try to look beyond the obvious.
What were the challenges for you in the beginning, in your journey?
I think that beginning of any road as actually much simpler than the rest. We are passionate about what are we doing, have a lot of energy and ideas, and because of that things go rater smoothy. I just use to photograph my kids. Everywhere, doing everything, all the time. Things get a little harder down the line. One you photograph every corner of your house and every possible activity things get a little trickier. (To the point that it’s now sometimes easier for me to get an image that I love when I’m with a client. It’s a new environment, new people, new activities. It’s simpler. )
Also, it’s not easy to be a parent and a photographer simultaneously. When trying to focus on spending time with my kids and photograph them and the same time, I sometimes end up doing none of it. Images are not good enough and I’m not good enough father.
Why are you passionate capturing an honest image?
There is more than one reason. It started very organically. I’m a photographer, I have a camera, due to the nature of my work I spend a lot of time working from home and with my kids. What else is there to do if not to take pictures of them. Couple years ago, I was at my folk’s place, and I somehow gravitated towards to that old green box full of pictures. Going through them I had realized that the photographs I have the most connection to, the ones that mean something to me are not the perfect ones when my family and I stand in line in front of a camera but the ones that my dad took with his old Zenit camera when no one was looking. Not the “stand here sweetie, look at me for a moment” vacation pictures, but the ones where I can see my old home, the old garage in the backyard that no longer exists, the way my old room looks like and my family looking a behaving…normal. My pictures are not the same at that moment. I decided to step away from the traditional family portraits for myself and my clients as well and move to a documentary style photography.
Plus we also live quite a distance from the rest of our family, and as much as we try to stay in touch they don’t really know how our lives look like on the day to day basis. It’s really easy to feel the distance when you see Suzie hugging a laptop while talking to her grandma on Skype or Kostek kissing a webcam. So photographs exist partly because of our family. It’s a way to show grandparents something that they cannot experience. The normal life of the grandkids.
But the main reason is: I take pictures because I believe it’s important. I strongly believe that life is made of regular days. Annoying Monday mornings and busy evenings. And I think it’s incredibly easy to ignore those times. To not pay attention to the boring, regular and mundane but focus only on big family events. But how many weddings, Christmas days and family trips do we really have in our lifetime? Life is what’s happening here and now. There is way more Mondays than birthdays. When you take your kids to school, and you missed the bus or when they leave smudged fingerprints and toothpaste on the clean bathroom mirror. Sundays when they wake up earlier than on school day and won’t let you sleep. Or that split second when they love each other just before they start fighting again, This is what I want to remember and more importantly what I want them to remember. I have a box of pictures from my childhood, but besides that, my memories from when I was a child are really foggy. I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to remember those days in 50 years. So I try to take pictures all the time. Of everything. When they brush their teeth and ride a bike. Playing a board game with mum and doing homework. Sleeping, eating, crying, dancing, reading. I have pictures of them sitting on a toilet, licking a shower curtain, covered in chicken pox, at the doctor’s office, and so on. Basically all the time, every day and everywhere. But only a handful gets published.
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to capture their children or subject with a more honest candid way (aim for at least 5, but any are welcome)
Try to think why you are taking a picture. I know we sometimes just want to save the moment, but think about “why”? What is the thing that brings your attention? When your daughter is playing in the sand, don’t just point at the whole situation and shoot. Decide what do you like the most. Is it her feet covered in sand? Her hair being tousled by the wind? The look on her face? Have a strong point of focus and then shoot. Know why you are taking a picture.
Remember what it was like to to be a child. How it felt to do what they do now. With the image of my son on the beach, I have mentioned above I want to capture the feeling of being a four-year-old boy at the beach at sunset. – It’s not every day that he does that. It gets a little dark, he has a lot more freedom the usual, The beach is empty and wide, the sun is slowly hiding behind the horizon, and the waves make this calming sound. I believe it was special, little magical and quite unreal for him. So that’s the image I have tried to take. It’s not about how it looks like.
Get to their eye level. We always look at kids from one perspective. Looking down. And when we take a picture that way, we are just looking “at the scene”, plus we usually end up with photos of the top of their heads. Get down on your knees or crouch down to their height. Don’t just point and shoot. Get to their eye level or even lower. Not only your pictures will be more interesting; as this is not our normal way of looking at kids and it gives us a unique perspective, you also will become more approachable, but more importantly, you will be a part of their world. You will see everything from their perspective.
Just do it more. Funny thing about a photography is that the camera can show you things in a way that you can’t see without it. When you try to take the picture that describes the moment exactly how it is you need to really focus on what is exactly going on. Not only how it looks like but how does it feel. To you, but more importantly to them. And that requires attention, and that allows you to see more. You dedicate this moment to solely looking at them. Nothing else. And that is not something that we usually do during busy days. It definitely allowed me to be more present, to be more in the moment with them and understand them, not only when I’m taking the pictures but also when I put the camera down.
Shoot through moments Do not stop taking pictures simply because you just took one or two. When your daughter is drawing a firetruck on the kitchen table being completely focused on what she is doing, and you want to save that moment; do not take just one photo ( or even just 3) Stay with it. Keep shooting. She may stick her tongue out in a minute or scratch her nose or make that face that she always makes when she is thinking. The photo will be infinitely better, and it only takes a minute of waiting. Shoot through the moment. Take the “safe” shoot and keep shooting for the better one.
ABOUT THE ARTIST :
Thomas. Father of two. Dublin based documentary photographer.